MGH Institute Graduates Largest Class in its 40-Year History

MGH Institute of Health Professions graduated the largest class in its 40-year history on Saturday, May 6 at Commencement 2017.

Among the 557 new graduates were students in the first classes of the Doctor of Occupational Therapy and Master of Physician Assistant Studies programs.

During the morning hooding and pinning events, graduating students in communication sciences and disorders, nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and physician assistant studies were recognized for their academic efforts. Students in the PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences and Master of Science in Health Professions Education programs also graduated.

The morning events featured several well-respected speakers. Will Lautzenheiser, a former university professor, spoke to occupational therapy students about how he lost his arms and legs several years ago to a rare bacterial infection and he has battled to regain mobility, thanks in part to a double-arm transplant performed in 2014 at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Sheila Davis ’97, ’08, Chief Nursing Officer and Chief of Clinical Operations for Partners in Health, the Boston-based non-profit that provides health care in the poorest areas of developing countries, addressed the School of Nursing graduates. Rhea Paul, Chair and Professor of Speech Language Pathology at Sacred Heart University, spoke at the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders ceremony. Physician Assistant Studies students heard from Jerene Bitondo, Chief Physician Assistant at Massachusetts General Hospital. Terry Ellis, Assistant Professor and Director of the Center for Neurorehabilitation at Boston University, gave the keynote for physical therapy students.

The day-long ceremony before 3,000 graduates, family, and friends at the Boston Convention and Exposition Center marked the final Commencement for President Janis P. Bellack, who is retiring in June after leading the school to unprecedented heights during the past 10 years.

In her keynote address, Dr. Bellack implored the new graduates to follow the school’s mission to become everyday leaders, both professionally and personally. “Embrace differences in the people you encounter in life – people whose appearance, life experiences, beliefs, values, status, social class, culture, and viewpoints are different than yours,” she said. “See these as opportunities to learn about and from them, and seek to understand them. In doing so, you will not only broaden your perspectives, you will become a person richer in spirit.”

She also said, “Being an everyday leader means having the courage to take risks, and the agility to navigate complexity, ambiguity, and uncertainty. You will have to design your way forward, using your best critical thinking and clinical judgment skills to make evidence-based practice decisions in the best interest of your patients.”

Dr. Bellack, who was named President Emerita during the ceremony, was lauded by Massachusetts General Hospital President Dr. Peter Slavin and MGH Institute Board Chair Dr. George Thibault for her extraordinary accomplishments.

“Under Jan’s leadership, the Institute is a better, more vibrant, and stronger institution,” said Dr. Slavin.

Dr. Thibault told the audience that during Dr. Bellack’s decade as president, the Institute has experienced unprecedented growth in new programs and research, has seen its program rankings significantly increase, has almost doubled the students it educates each year, and has been recognized nationally as a great place to work.

“Your decade of leadership as President and John Hilton Knowles Professor has brought us to a place we could not have imagined when you assumed the helm in 2007,” said Dr. Thibault. “Throughout your time as President, you have always kept your attention focused squarely on the students we are educating to become tomorrow’s health care leaders, and on the faculty and staff who make the Institute such a special place and assure its continuing excellence. I’m confident saying that the many students, faculty, staff, alumni, and trustees have all benefited from your vision, wisdom, and enduring commitment to the Institute.”

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